The Reykjavik Open has established itself as one of the strongest open tournaments in the world today. And in the 2015 edition the 2605 rated Erwin L’Ami, only 11th in the starting list crushed the competition, winning the tournament with a round to spare! In between receiving the champion’s trophy and catching some much deserved sleep, he was kind enough to answer a few questions. reports
A bouquet of flowers, winner’s trophy, 8.5/10, a rating performance of 2826, +27 Elo and a smile
Sagar Shah: Erwin, how does it feel to win such a strong tournament like Reykjavik Open and that too with a round to spare?
Erwin L’Ami: It’s unlike anything I ever experienced in my career! I call it a ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’ and I am afraid that is indeed what it is.
SS: What were your expectations from this tournament before you sat down to play the first game?
EL: I didn’t think much about that. I did suffer from a lasting cold in the past few weeks which is generally not very helpful. My play in Cappelle la Grande (which finished one day before the start of this event) was nothing special. So I had no particular expectations.
SS: Which was your favourite game from the tournament and why?
EL: Difficult to say. I cherish the wins against Granda and Melkumyan because they were incredibly hard fought. But, of course, the win against a world class player like Mamedyarov was very special as well.
Beating a 2756 opponent in 21 moves is not something you see everyday
SS: Let’s have a look at a few of your game positions from your tournament and know your thought process during those critical moments. The first one is after move ten in your game against Mamedyarov.
The computer assesses this position as equal. What is your assessment?
EL: My computer actually gives White a pleasant edge after 10…Bf5 11.Nh4! with the point that 11…Ne4 can now be met with 12.Bxe4 Bxe4 13.f3! Therefore, Black has to retreat his bishop but then White has a risk-free game. I wouldn’t mind repeating this line 🙂 SS: After your win with Mamedyarov, you were the sole leader in the event. But immediately in the next round you had quite a bad position against Granda Zuniga.
What was going through your mind at this point and how did you decide
on sacrificing an exchange with axb4?
EL: I realised things had gone really wrong here and it simply didn’t seem like I had a choice. The fact that this game still went my way was of course vital. It’s that kind of luck you need to win an event.
The last hurdle before the title: Erwin against Hrant Melkumyan in the penultimate round
SS: In the position above that was reached against Hrant Melkumyan, I considered it most natural to play 20.f4 Bg7 21.Be1 followed by pushing the pawn to e5. However, you played 20.Bf4 ruining your pawn structure to some extent. Can you please explain why you made such a decision? EL: I was not very happy with how this game developed. In trying to surprise him with the Rb1-line against the Grunfeld I ended up surprising myself when he chose the move 9….Nc6. I vaguely remembered someone once showing me that 11.Qc2 is a possibility but it didn’t work out well at all. I thought that after 20.Bf4 Bxf4 21.gxf4 I would be worse, but nothing beyond repair. Instead 20.f4 Bg7 21.Be1 didn’t look inspiring to me because Black looks totally fine after say 21…a6 preparing Rd7-Rbd8 and if 22.e5 simply 22…f6! is strong.
A man with a great sense of humour: Erwin is relieved to find nothing on him!
SS: You won the tournament with a round to spare. Did you relax and celebrate your success or you went back to the room and started preparing for the last round? Did you lose that feeling of competitiveness for your last round game against Eljanov?
EL: It was of course difficult to keep the same kind of focus and determination but I wouldn’t blame my loss to this. I did want to finish the tournament on a high note but Pavel outplayed me fair and square.
SS: Winning this tournament, was this the biggest success in your chess career till date?
EL: I would certainly think so!
SS: What’s next on Erwin L’Ami’s agenda? And what are your future aims?
EL: No big plans for the moment. I think a nice holiday would be in place, to a warm location preferably! Future plans… returning to the top 100 would be nice, a big step has been made here.
Time to celebrate: the beautiful couple enjoying their success
SS: Final question. What are you more proud of at the Reykjavik Open 2015: Erwin L’Ami’s games or Alina L’Ami’s pictures?
EL: I will get in trouble if I don’t choose the latter but I am quite happy with both!
Two things stood out in Reykjavik- Erwin’s performance and Alina’s pictures!
Erwin’s report card at Chess-Results
Pictures by Fiona Antoni-Steil